The Real Housewives of Potomac recap: Making magic in Madeira
As one battle in our country is called to a close, a very different, much longer-raging battle reignites on The Real Housewives of Potomac. And for this battle, we are most grateful. Because when Karen Huger and Gizelle Bryant are at odds… everyone is a winner.
The cast of RHOP visit Portugal this week, and there is some beautiful irony in these women who hail from a fake city in a tiny state acting like it’s impossible for them to commit to memory that Portugal is an entire country. There’s also something dare-I-say annoying about them continuing to call poncha, Madeira’s signature drink “punani” directly to waiters’ faces. Thank goodness the editors are there with helpful subtitles — “PORTUGAL = COUNTRY (…NOT CITY)” — every time a Housewife has too much poncha and mislabels her host country.
But before the women head to Madeira, there’s some business to attend to in Potomac. First, Karen has to own up to Monique about encouraging Candiace to press charges, which she somehow gets away from scot-free. Then, Michael has to act like the model husband and father that he is not, telling Ashley how he’ll be home every night to put baby Dean to bed — an act that lasts about as long as it takes Ashley to get to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. And finally, we have to establish the drama that will soon detonate this entire lovely girls trip: Ashley has agreed to make a statement for Monique’s countersuit regarding the time Candiace brandished a butter knife at her last season…
Which is why Karen coming at Gizelle sideways about her phony relationship with Jamal the moment we arrived in Portugal was such a fun little surprise — I had been girding my loins for the wrong thing!
Once the women settle into their glamorous hotel, they head straight to dinner, where we’re presented with the theme of this episode: one woman asking another woman how she’s doing, that woman answering that she’s doing well, everyone nodding their heads like they accept her answer, and then rolling their eyes at the camera during their testimonials. Because everyone on Potomac is lyyyyying.
Candiace has declared that she won’t be talking about Monique’s countersuit on this trip, which is a promise that holds up for this episode, but surely won’t hold up much longer. Karen is suddenly saying that she and Ray are doing just fine, which is perhaps what gives her the motivation to confront Gizelle about her invisible relationship with Jamal. (Karen is also dramatically drinking a glass of milk with a straw for this entire conversation, which is physical comedy in its highest form. She is a modern-day Lucille Ball.)
She approaches the subject with Gizelle by saying: “I am concerned that I haven’t seen Jamal supporting you in Potomac at events. You are always alone.” Karen will later try to spin this as selfless concern for her good friend Gizelle but it's most certainly just Karen being shady because Gizelle sold her out to Wendy last week. And I know this because Karen then coos, “Is he not proud of you, Gizelle?” But I honestly don’t care how shady Karen is being because: 1. Jamal is most certainly a fraud and Gizelle needs to wise up to his behavior before he embarrasses her beyond repair, 2. As Ashley later says, “Karen has been holding onto this Gizelle check, and she really wants to cash it,” and 3. This food tastes good, and I am HUNGRY.
Gizelle says that Jamal is simply booked and busy and that he lives eight states away (and he goes to a different school, and the Loch Ness Monster ate his homework, etc.). The other women agree that it is a little weird that they never see Jamal, and even Robyn says, “If you’re in a relationship that you’re happy about, why wouldn’t you share that with your friends?” I was shocked, but I love this look on Robyn. Gently tell your friend her boyfriend-ex-husband sucks, and do it with an audience so she can’t get mad at you!!!
Gizelle also asks Ashley about Michael at this dinner by very subtly transitioning from everyone talking about punani (poncha) to saying, “Well, since we’re on the subject of cooch, I was wondering how you and Michael are because he handles your pun-pun.” Wow.
Ashley responds that she and Michael are doing great and she is “100 percent back in [her] marriage.” And then she goes back up to her room, can’t get ahold of Michael, finds out he hasn’t made it back from work by Dean’s bedtime, finally gets him on the phone, and after she softly presses him on why he’s late when he promised he wouldn’t be, he tells her, “I can’t do this, can’t do this, I can’t be molested like this, this is crazy.” Gaslighting — it’s the same language in every timezone!
And yet, the next morning when Karen swings by Ashley’s room, Ashley is weaving a narrative about how she totally overreacted to Michael being late the night before, and it actually ended up being a “moment of growth” because Michael eventually called back and apologized, and she could tell that he really heard her and understood her. Karen gently asks if maybe Ashely reacted so strongly because the last time she went out of town, Michael… cheated on her and got a picture taken of him wearing nothing but his dirty drawers? Ashley assures Karen that is not the case, she’s totally fine with all of that. Totally fine.
Day two in Madeira consists of a scenic cable car ride over the city, and a lunch where Wendy talks about her degrees for the 100th time in a matter of two episodes.
I thought the case was closed on Karen saying Wendy isn’t a real doctor last week when everyone laughed it off. And then I definitely thought the case had been closed the first night in Portugal when Wendy said she was “putting a button on it” after telling a very sweet story about being named after the Wendy’s fast-food chain because her immigrant father was so proud to be promoted to manager there just before she was born.
And yet, here Wendy is, announcing that she’s unbuttoning the button she just buttoned because she’s still mad about what Karen said. And listen, I get that Wendy worked hard for her degrees, that she’s proud of her education, especially as a Black woman and a daughter of immigrants… but also, this is just how things are done on The Real Housewives of Potomac. A joke turns into an argument, the argument turns into a joke, and then we move on. After Karen apologizes one more time for appearing to diminish Wendy’s degrees, Wendy promises she’s “zipping it up” for real this time. But a zipper almost seems less permanent than a button… so I’ll believe it when I see it.
And we simply must move on because there’s one last, much larger fish to fry. Once she’s shooed Wendy off, Karen tells Gizelle that her intentions got lost in the shuffle the night before; it seems she was trying to say that they support Gizelle, but Gizelle didn’t receive that.
“Because you didn’t say that!” Gizelle responds, accurately. And if she had just stopped there, Gizelle may have come out on top. Instead, Gizelle really tries it with Karen, knowing well and good that trying it with Karen almost never works out in her favor.
While Karen is saying that Gizelle is always sharing her opinion on Ashley’s relationship, but they’re not allowed to have one on hers with Jamal, Gizelle is dialing up the preacher-man himself so that all of her friends can see him on FaceTime since they’ve been claiming that she never brings him around. To which Karen says: “Gizelle, I’ve always known that Jamal lives in your phone.”
Gizelle tries to come back from that, but the case is buttoned, zipped, and thrown off a Madeira cable car into the Atlantic Ocean the moment Karen utters this iconic final line in her testimonial: “We can do that dance Gizelle, but I’m not giving you s--- because you don’t give s---…except S---.” Hot damn, see you next week.